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Update: Alaska and American have reversed course! In addition to Alaska expanding their partnership with American, they will now be joining the Oneworld Alliance sometime in mid-2021.
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have announced additional cutbacks to an already-diminished partnership. As of March 1, 2020 reciprocal award mile redemptions between the airlines will no longer be available. Additionally, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will no longer be able to earn Alaska miles on international American Airlines flights.
Current Partnership Status
Back in January 2018, Alaska and American made the first round of major cuts to their partnership. These changes included:
- Domestic American flights no longer earned Alaska miles.
- Alaska flights without an American Airlines flight number (non-codeshare flights) no longer earned American miles.
- Priority boarding, free checked bags, and preferred seating were no longer offered by either airline to members of the other airline’s loyalty program.
Despite these changes, the 2018 cuts did not impact the ability to redeem miles; both Alaska MileagePlan and American AAdvantage continued to allow members to redeem their miles on flights operated by the other airline.
Changes Coming March 1, 2020
Unfortunately, the latest announcement is putting an end to mileage redemptions. American Airlines has updated their Alaska Airlines partner page with the following notice:
“Mileage redemption on Alaska Airlines is ending effective February 29, 2020. All award travel must be booked and ticketed by February 29, 2020. Travel is valid for 1 year after ticketing date and must be flown no later than February 28, 2021. Ticket changes will not be allowed after February 29, 2020.”
Alaska Mileage Plan has made a similar update to their American partner page:
“Effective March 1, 2020, you will no longer earn Mileage Plan miles on American international flights. You will no longer be able to redeem miles for award travel on American Airlines domestic or international flights.”
What's Not Changing
The silver lining here is pretty thin. Both frequent flyer programs will continue to allow members to earn miles on codeshare flights. In simple terms, this means that Mileage Plan members will earn miles on American operated flights that have an Alaska (AS) flight number, and AAdvantage members will still earn miles on Alaska operated flights that have an American (AA) flight number.
The other benefit that is being preserved (at least for now) is reciprocal lounge access. American Admirals Club members flying on Alaska Airlines will have access to Alaska lounges on the day of the flight. The reverse is true as well for Alaska Club members flying on American Airlines.
Perhaps the only good news is that the two programs have given a little advance notice. Travelers with plans to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on American Airlines, or vice-versa, should book before the end of February 2020. Since Alaska and American release award seats 330 and 331 days before departure (respectively), it will be possible to book flights as late as January 24, 2021 on the last day mileage redemptions are allowed. However, it's important to note that changes will not be possible after February 29, 2020.
While this announcement means that there will soon be fewer ways to redeem miles for flights on either airline, there are still great options for booking American Airlines or Alaska Airlines flights. For example, travelers can book award flights on either airlines using British Airways Avios. Both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to British Airways.
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